Folders are fun, but realistically, they're not going to match a modern system camera for image quality, and you need to decide if that's an acceptable tradeoff.
For me, the whole reason to shoot film is to get a completely different look from what I get with my digital Nikons. I just love the softer, low contrast quality I get from pre-war uncoated lenses. I own two folders from the 1930s, one from the 1920s, and one from 1914. These are all 6x9 format, and while still fairly compact (more so than any of my Nikons for sure,) it would be hard to beat a 6x6 folder for compactness and maintain fairly large image size.
Kent in SD
I love the "uncoated" look sometimes too, particularly with slide film, although I think it needn't be soft for any intrinsic reason---a good Tessar should be as sharp as dammit in the center, coated or not, though it'll never have the edge and corner sharpness of some fancier designs. But typical old folders, especially in 6x9, have some trouble maintaining good film flatness, which makes critical focus a little dicier than it would be with a modern camera.
Originally Posted by Two23
But not everyone wants "softer, low contrast", and certainly sharp-and-contrasty can be had in medium format if that's the direction the OP wants to go...I just wouldn't suggest a folder for *that* direction. (Well, I might, but it'd be a plate camera with a Heliar, which isn't many people's choice for a walking-around camera!)
San Diego, CA, USA
The lady of the house has to be a pretty swell sort of person to put up with the annoyance of a photographer.
-The Little Technical Library, _Developing, Printing, And Enlarging_
The Fuji GA645 would be my first choice for you. It will allow you to have fun with medium format without a weight or size penalty that you can't live with. If you have never worked with medium format you will be stunned with what 645 can do, regardless of what others try to tell you. This will probably run around $600 though I have not priced them lately. Will accept 120 or 220 film.
A Fuji GF670 (or the Bessa equivalent) is by far your best choice for a modern folder. This Fuji really is in a class by itself. A beautiful lens, compact size, excellent rangefinder focusing, a great metering system. Even the best of the older folders just cannot compete, though some come close. But, it will run $1200 for a used one, $1700 for new, though again prices can vary on this. Size and weight is similar to the Fuji GA 645 but the film size increases to 6x6 or 6x7 on 120 or 220.
A TLR is a great option as well. There are lots of options here, Rolleiflex is considered at the top of the heap, but the Minolta AutoCord or YashicaMat is also a good option. I personally like the YashicaMat, mine takes 6x6 pictures on 120 or 220 film and has an awesome lens. The film advance is allegedly not as robust as the one found in the Rolleiflex, but it has not failed me yet. The camera is light, compact, and very easy to handle. My YashicaMat cost me about $200, so it is one of the least expensive options here. However, if you have never used a TLR then there will certainly be a learning curve. I has taken me over a year to get comfortable using it.
Good luck and have fun. Medium format is still a terrific way to capture magnificent images.
The simplest tools can be the hardest to master.
Yes. If you want a 645 system. Do you like printing rectangles?
If yes, 645 is a good compromise between speed and negative size. With today's films you can go pretty big from a nice 645 negative and have enough quality, unless you're a grain peeper.
If you like to be more flexible, you should consider a 6x6. It offers the possibility of shooting square and cropping to rectangle, both horizontally and vertically. I like that.
But the cameras end up bigger, and you get fewer negatives out of a roll. Fact of life.
If you don't mind a significantly bigger camera, there's always 6x7. Less cropping, and usually these cameras are available with revolving backs, which is nice so you don't have to tilt the whole camera 90 degrees when you want to change from horizontal to vertical framing (which is a pain in the neck).
Do you need speed when you shoot? In that case you should consider 35mm. Nothing is faster, and you still can make incredible prints from the tiny negatives. Unless you're a grain peeper.
If you don't mind waiting, a 6x9 would really give you a nice negative. But you might as well go 4x5, maybe with a roll film back for more economy when shooting.
Always figure out what you want to achieve first, and what you like. Then figure out how to get there.
If it were me - Rolleiflex if I could have just one camera. But you don't like waist level finders. So the Fuji 645 or Bronica 645 would be good for you, for sure. Think about the FUJI 67 rangefinder too.
"Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank
"Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman
"...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh
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645's are (were) for wedding photographers. That's all the redeeming quality I can see in one. You can't buy 220 any more, so it can't replace a 35 for shooting willy-nilly. And it can't do what a 67 can do in terms of neg quality. It's closer to a 35 than anything else, so why not stick with a 35? Just extra bulk and expense for diminishing returns. Unless you're a wedding photographer still using one. Then you're a poor man because the digital people are killing you.
Portra is available in 220. There are wedding photographers who are doing well with film- they're not on the lowest end of the scale, though.
Originally Posted by Tom1956
I do use a digital device in my photographic pursuits when necessary.
When someone rags on me for using film, I use a middle digit, upraised.
I spent much of today helping a friend who is new to medium format and close to new to darkroom work. We were working on an 11 x 14 print from one of her first rolls shot with a Bronica ETRs. In this case, she used a tripod.
The detail we were able to reveal in her print was wonderful. The shot, which I believe was on FP4+, could easily have been enlarged to 16x20.
I regularly get similar results with my Mamiya 645 Pro and either Plus-X or TMY-2. And I regularly get transparencies that are both a joy to project and, when scanned, give excellent 12x16 colour prints.
If you print rectangular photographs, 6x4.5 is capable of the same quality as 6x6.
I also shoot 6x6 and 6x7. The negatives from those cameras are also good to print.
Finally, I shoot 35mm film as well. When I print to something like 11x14, I can usually get results I am happy with, but I definitely prefer 6x4.5 negatives, because they are substantially larger than their 35mm cousins.
Either an ETRS or a 645 Pro is a fair bit more bulky then my 35mm eqipment, but it is similar in size to some of the digital equipment out there.
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2
Then why not go on fleabay and get yourself an old Mamiya m645 and give it a go? Can't lose much.
I'll reign in my initial reaction and just say that I respectfully disagree with you.
Originally Posted by Tom1956
645 is something like double the image area of 35mm (I'll let someone else do the math(s) if they want to get a precise number) and whatever those numbers may seem to imply, the actual impression of step up is substantial. It's also the same image area you will get if you crop a 6x6 negative to 8x10 proportions which I find I do about half the time with my 6x6 negatives (the fervent anti-cropping crowd can disregard that.)
It is true, of course, that 6x7 is a huge step up again, doubling the negative area again. But it's also a huge step up in size and weight. A 6x7 rangefinder will be huge compared to a 645 one. There are folders but any camera in 6x7 is just going to be a lot larger than the same type of camera in 645. An RB 67 makes a great tripod camera but, while it CAN be handheld, I wouldn't swap my Mamiya 645 Pro for one for carrying around - the 645 Pro, as someone alluded, is big enough.
The 645's proper competition is 6x6 not 6x7. And it just depends on whether you will crop much of the time, in which case you might as well shoot 645, or print square. In this case we are talking about slides and a projector that can handle 645 and 6x6 will be MUCH more affordable (though still a lot more than one for 35mm) than one that can handle 6x7.
I shoot all three in one form or another, 645 in my Mamiya 645 Pro, 6x6 in my Yashicamat 124 and 6x7 via a RF back (mainly for color) in my view camera. Leaving aside the view camera which is a very different kind of shooting, the Mamiya is the most versatile, the Yashica is the most fun, and 35mm does in fact often get the nod over the 645, partly due to size/weight but mostly due to fast primes and having a couple of good zooms in 35mm. The 80mm 1.9 is, of course, available for the 645, I just don't have one.
I will agree that a 645 Pro is a big honkin' camera to carry around though. Even with the 80mm 2.8 or my 55mm 2.8, add a film magazine and the winder grip (which makes the camera handle MUCH better) plus the AE prism finder and it does somewhat resemble an albatross around one's neck. It handles great though and the results are superb, and the size/weight penalty relative to 35mm is often mostly offset by the interchangeable backs meaning I don't have to also carry spare bodies loaded with different film. This may may not matter to you but I often need at least a couple of kinds of film available and loaded, even with the 15 shots per roll I get with the 645.